Concussions are frequently reported in the news and we hope to bring awareness to parents and athletes about its impact on health and function. A concussion is defined as when there is a rapid acceleration or deceleration of the head that results either from a direct blow to the head or from an impulsive force transmitted to the head. While many of us think of car accidents or sports related concussions, many can be mild accidents such as a fall on the ice, a child hitting their head on a cabinet, or two people colliding heads. Incidence of concussions is more frequent than it was once thought. The CDC estimates 3.8 million concussions occur each year.
Children younger than 5 years had the highest incidence of concussion. With 8 million high school athletes and increasing club sports in children from 5-18 years, awareness of concussion and more testing among these groups is important. The adolescent brain is still developing and a recurrent concussion could lead to longer recovery times and long term consequences.
Children and adolescents are at a stage in life when near demands are very high and early, high quality care is critical to reduce disruption in education. Evidence shows a substantial difference in return to sport between high school and adult populations. Return to sport generally takes 30 days in adolescents compared to less than a week in professional athletes. Lack of neck strength may contribute to the risk of concussion, which makes evaluation of children and females who have had a possible concussion even more important. Delayed diagnoses and a previous concussion can lead to prolonged double vision, tracking problems, or reduced depth perception that can delay return to play, as well as, inhibit function and learning in school or work.
What is my role as a Doctor of Optometry? I include baseline testing parents and health care teams can use when determining return to play if a concussion is suspected or diagnosed. In addition, we can provide you with visual rehabilitation to assist with reduction of symptoms and healing. Persistent light sensitivity and difficulty reading may be a symptom of oculomotor dysfunction. These symptoms create inconveniences for college students, youth, and office workers who are reliant on the ability to track and converge when reading a book or looking at a computer screen. Sometimes symptoms are not reported such as when a child is less than 5 years old, the event was unseen by adults, or if the event was brushed off as “he’s a kid, he’s tough.” An annual eye exam from 3-28 years old that includes oculomotor testing is important yearly for early detection and to reduce the risk of long term difficulties from mild concussion. #Beyond 20/20.
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